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Posted: 2018-12-04 14:44:39

December 3, 2018; Last Real Indians

Since 2002, the House of Tears Carvers of the Lummi Nation in northwest Washington have been advocating to protect water, air, and land from natural and anthropogenic forces by leveraging their traditional art form of carving totem poles. These sometimes massive works of art are then sent on “totem pole journeys” across North America to “raise awareness, build alliances, and unite communities around areas of concern,” as explained by Last Real Indians and highlighted in this brief YouTube video. The totem poles are part of ongoing efforts by Native American tribes to apply sovereignty and treaty rights—along with storytelling and art—to protect the environment.

For the last six years, the new totem poles have focused on issues relating to the fossil fuel industry. The newest carving emphasizes risks to the Salish Sea (off northwest Washington and southwest British Columbia) and its dwindling population of orcas, or killer whales, if proposed industry initiatives are not stopped. This month, the new totem of a whale will take its place in a traveling exhibition opening at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. The exhibition, titled Whale People: Protectors of the Sea, “narrates the plight of the orcas from an Indigenous perspective.” The exhibition was created by Lummi Nation and a nonprofit pop-up museum called The Natural History Museum. This nonprofit, established in 2014, has several Native American leaders on its Advisory Board and the work of the organization is described on its website in this way:

The mission of The Natural History Museum is to affirm the truth of science. By looking at the presentation of natural history, the museum demonstrates principles fundamental to scientific inquiry, principles such as the commonality of knowledge and the unavoidability of the unknown. The Museum inquires into what we see, how we see, and what remains excluded from our seeing. It invites visitors to take the perspective

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